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Trench foot
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Trench foot

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  • 1. Immersion Foot SyndromesChapter 4IMMERSION FOOT SYNDROMESJOHN ADNOT, M.D. * AND CHARLES W. LEWIS, M.D.† INTRODUCTION OVERVIEW INJURIES IN COOL OR COLD CLIMATES Trench Foot Immersion Foot Management INJURIES IN WARMER CLIMATES Tropical Immersion Foot Warm Water Immersion Foot SUMMARY* Private Practice of Dermatology, Overton Park Building, 4200 S. Hulen Drive, Fort Worth, Texas 76109; formerly, Dermatology Service, Fitzsimons Army Medical Center, Aurora, Colorado 80045† Private Practice of Dermatology, Dermatology Clinic, Regenstrief Health Center, 1050 Walnut Street, RG524, Indianapolis, Indiana 46202; formerly, Chief, Dermatology Service, Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas 78234 55
  • 2. Military Dermatology INTRODUCTION Since the founding of this country, American South Pacific.3 A modified jungle boot, the tropicalsoldiers have been fighting wars wearing a wide combat boot, was designed and tested during thevariety of shoes and boots to protect their feet from latter part of World War II. It consisted of spunthe environment. Soldiers of the Continental Army, nylon, a leather midsole, and a full-length rubber1775 to 1781, wore simple low-cut leather shoes outer sole. Production was not started until the sum-with the rough side out and cloth leggings laced mer of 1945.3over the lower leg.1 Joseph Lovell, a surgeon gen- During the Korean conflict, a special browneral in the 1800s, noted the importance of enabling leather jump boot that laced all the way up the frontsoldiers to keep their feet warm and dry with wool was issued to paratroopers and became popularsocks and laced shoes reaching at least to the ankle. throughout the army. Except for switching to aHe also observed that letting the feet remain wet black color, these boots remained mostly un-and cold for any length of time led to constitutional changed through the Korean and Vietnam conflicts.illnesses.2 In the mid-1960s a black leather and olive drab In 1861, Union and Confederate soldiers wore nylon-webbing jungle boot with a cleated sole be-any type of personally owned boot or shoe, but came the favorite footwear of the American soldier.4most used a simple, laced, ankle-high brogan. Dur- The type of footwear worn by the soldier ining the Civil War, Union troops were issued the combat, along with environmental conditions andfirst mass-produced shoes that distinguished be- preventive hygiene measures, has played a crucialtween the left and right foot. Up to this time, most role in producing a variety of cutaneous disordersshoes were made to be worn on either foot. Many of the feet. These “disease, nonbattle injuries” rangeConfederate troops were barefoot or used can- from minor inconveniences to very significant con-vas and wood to fashion crude walking shoes. Of- ditions that may result in hospitalization.ficers and mounted troops typically wore leather Based on methods of clinical diagnosis and labo-boots.2 ratory confirmation of soldiers evacuated from war Ankle-high, heavy leather shoes continued to be zones with inflammatory conditions of the feet, themanufactured and were issued to soldiers during following list was presented by Pillsbury andWorld War I. Wool wraps called puttees were Livingood:wound around the lower leg from the knee to theankle to protect the leg. It was not until the spring At Fitzsimons General Hospital, after classificationof 1918, however, that the Pershing boot, a heavier and appropriate studies, patients referred with thisshoe with more waterproof construction, was de- diagnosis were divided into the following catego-veloped.3 It was effectively designed for the de- ries and proportions:mands of trench warfare. After the war, modifica- 1. The hyperhidrosis (dyshidrosis) syndrome,tions on footwear reflected garrison life and the 51 percent.need for economy.3 2. Pyoderma secondary to trauma, maceration, Ankle-high shoes and canvas leggings were ini- or hyperhidrosis (dyshidrosis) syndrome,tially worn in World War II. Because of material 14 percent. 3. Dermatophytosis, 20 percent.shortages and lack of preparedness for the footwear 4. Dermatitis venenata produced by medica-needs of wartime, despite the experience available tion (which had usually been prescribed forfrom World War I, it was not until the end of 1943 the treatment of the presumed fungal infec-that the first combat boot appeared.3 It was a brown tions), 11 percent.laced boot with a leather flap on the upper. Because 5. Other dermatitis venenata, 2 percent.leather is a permeable material, all leather boots 6. Resistant pustular eruptions (the so-calledleak to some extent. It was not until 1944 that the M- bacterid of Andrews), 1 percent.1944 Shoepac, with a moccasin-type rubber boot, 7. Pustular psoriasis, 0.5 percent.was approved for distribution. It was the best 8. Acrodermatitis continua of Hallopeau, 0.5 percent.5(p593)available modification for the cold, wet conditionsof trench warfare in Europe.3 The first jungle boots Controlled studies demonstrating effective meth-made of canvas and rubber were used in the ods for preventing foot diseases in military popula-56
  • 3. Immersion Foot Syndromestions are rare. However, two studies are well docu- thors (CWL) convinced the Commander of the Sec-mented: ond Brigade, First Infantry Division, to direct the purchase of 5,000 pairs of rubber shower thongs for A convincing controlled study along these lines use after combat operations in the rice paddies. By was conducted by Maj. (later Lt. Col.) Laurence allowing soldiers to use these open rubber thongs Irving, Chief, Physiology Section, Headquarters, upon return to base camp, and limiting the continu- Eglin Field, Fla. Sandals were issued to approxi- mately 1,000 men, who were permitted to wear ous wet exposure to not more than 72 hours, the rate them on the post as much as they wished; most of of tropical immersion foot problems was generally them practically gave up wearing shoes. A similar kept to a level of 10% or less. Prior to institution of number of men wore shoes as usual. Within a these policies, a combat unit could experience 70% month, the proportion of severe dermatophytoses to 75% loss of personnel due entirely to inflammatory in men wearing sandals fell from 30 to 3 percent, skin diseases of feet that had been continuously wet while in the control group, the disease remained as more than 72 hours (Exhibits 4-1 through 4-3). troublesome as usual. While it is often impossible to determine the A similar study was conducted in New Guinea, exact role of diseases limited to the feet in overall while the 43d Infantry Division was in a rest area. effectiveness of a combat unit, rates of sick call and Some 300 men with unclassified skin diseases, many hospitalization always increased during periods of of whom undoubtedly had dermatophytosis of the combat operations in the rainy seasons and de- feet, were kept on the beach for 4 hours daily, creased in dry seasons.4 However, the fact that without clothing or shoes. They bathed, exercised, or just lay in the sun as they wished. Within a many combat units lost hundreds to thousands of month, the majority of infections had cleared with- man-days due to large numbers of individuals out any other treatment. 5(pp602–603) placed either on quarters or on light, noncombat status because of their skin diseases, was rarely During the conflict in Vietnam, one of the au- included in statistical reports. OVERVIEW Injuries to the feet from prolonged immersion in temperatures and a wet environment are subdi-water or contact with dampness, in a range of envi- vided into trench foot and immersion foot. Thoseronmental temperatures, may be collectively re- involving warmer temperatures include tropicalferred to as “immersion foot syndromes.” These immersion foot and warm water immersion foot.syndromes have been referred to as trench foot, This review describes each condition to alleviateswamp foot, tropical jungle foot, paddy-field foot, confusion over nomenclature and to aid in recogni-jungle rot, sea boot foot, bridge foot, and foxhole tion and treatment (Table 4-1). To keep the focusfoot. Although most common during wartime, they narrow, the extremes of the temperature injury spec-also appear with occupational and recreational ac- trum (ie, true frostbite and burns) are not specifi-tivities. cally addressed, but referred to as necessary for Injuries related to simultaneous exposure to cold clarification. INJURIES IN COOL OR COLD CLIMATES All four of the immersion foot syndromes dis- Trench Footcussed in the next two sections are characterized bypain that is continuous over several days to weeks. “Trench foot” refers to injury resulting from pro-They may incapacitate large numbers of troops in a longed exposure to wet conditions, without immer-unit simultaneously because of common exposure sion, in cold weather. The term probably originatedto the harsh environment. Commanders may prevent in World War I, when many men were confined tothese injuries by being aware of the hazards and trenches in cold, damp weather for prolonged peri-preventing long-term exposure to the predisposing ods. The condition was recognized as a cause ofconditions. In this section the two syndromes result- considerable loss of manpower as far back as theing from cold, wet conditions will be discussed. Greek Campaigns6 and the Napoleonic and Crimean 57
  • 4. Military Dermatology EXHIBIT 4-1 ARMY REGULATION 40-29: PREVENTION OF SKIN DISEASE AMONG TROOPS OPERATING IN INUNDATED AREAS HEADQUARTERS UNITED STATES ARMY VIETNAM APO SAN FRANCISCO 96375 REGULATION NUMBER 40-29 10 January 1968 MEDICAL SERVICE Prevention of Skin Disease Among Troops Operating in Inundated Areas 1. PURPOSE: To outline policy and procedures for the prevention of disabling skin conditions, which may occur when troops are required to conduct field operations in flooded rice paddies and other inundated areas. 2. SCOPE: This regulation is applicable to all units assigned or attached to this command. 3. GENERAL: Fungus infection of the foot is probably the most common skin disease causing disability among troops in RVN. The common athlete’s foot with involvement of the toe webs and soles of the feet does not occur frequently in Vietnam; or if it does, it is relatively mild. The most severely affected areas have been the top of the feet and legs under the boots, the groin, and the buttocks. The lesions often spread to produce bright red rings which may run together. Although not so common, immersion foot is also a potential hazard. 4. RESPONSIBILITIES: Commanders are responsible for implementing measures outlined below when, in their opinion and upon the advice of their surgeon, they are considered necessary and practical. 5. PREVENTIVE MEASURES: a. Limiting the duration of operations in watery terrain. The tactical situation permitting, a 48 hour limit (2 days and 2 nights) should be placed on operations involving continuous exposure to water. If this is not possible, casualties from fungus infection may be disabled for 2 or more days after a five-day operation. b. Proper care of the feet. (1) One of the most important measures is to insist that troops wear boots and socks only when necessary while in base camps. Shower clogs or thongs are recommended as substitutes. (2) During operations, commanders should have a few men at a time remove their footgear and allow their feet to dry as the tactical situation permits. (3) Dry socks should be included in resupply missions in the field whenever possible. Mesh socks are preferred. c. Exposure of the skin to the sun. (1) Where possible, exposure of as much of the body as possible to the sun for 30 minutes every day is recom- mended. To avoid sunburn, new arrivals should be gradually exposed for short periods of time until a protective tan develops. (2) In base camps, during daylight hours when mosquitoes are not a problem, troops should be allowed to wear abbreviated clothing such as shorts. This should be limited to those troops whose operations mission predisposes them to skin disease. d. Cleansing of the skin. (1) As soon as troops return from an operation, they should remove dirty clothing and shower immediately. It appears that showering in potable water will reduce the incidence of skin diseases. However, showers using nonpotable water are preferable to no showers. (2) The use of antibacterial (germicidal) soaps should be encouraged. Any of the nationally advertised brands are acceptable. e. Laundering field clothing. Field clothing should be washed in potable water. Quartermaster or modern contract laundries are preferred. Starching of field clothing reduces ventilation, and is not recommended for troops in active combat operations or other strenuous physical activities. f. Underclothing. Troops should be discouraged, but not prohibited, from wearing underclothes while on opera- tions in the field. Underclothes reduce ventilation of the skin. (AVHSU-PM) FOR THE COMMANDER: ROBERT C. TABER Brigadier General, US Army Chief of Staff WILLIAM H. JAMES Colonel, AGC Adjutant General This Regulation supersedes USARV Reg 40-20, 25 Jan 6658
  • 5. Immersion Foot SyndromesEXHIBIT 4-2MEMORANDUM ON PREVENTION OF SKIN DISEASE IN NINTH INFANTRY DIVISION DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY HEADQUARTERS 9th INFANTRY DIVISION APO SAN FRANCISCO 96370AVDE-MD 28 October 1968SUBJECT: Prevention of Skin Disease SEE DISTRIBUTION1. The maintenance of the health of a unit is a command responsibility. Tropical skin diseases are the most common cause of non-effectiveness within the 9th Infantry Division Area. Commanders have adequate medical personnel, effective medications and proven techniques to reduce this very serious problem2. Diseases of the foot and boot area developed rapidly after 48 hours of continuous exposure to the rice paddies and swamps, and may affect 35% to 50% of the combat strength of an infantry unit after 72 hours. With each succeeding exposure, skin infections are more severe and require over three weeks of intensive treatments.3. Consequently, commanders will limit operations to 48 hours in the paddy followed by a minimum of 24 hours utilization in a dry area. This limitation will be exceeded only in situations which override the inevitable loss of combat strength from skin disease.4. Additionally, to reduce the non-effectiveness rate caused by skin disease, commanders will conduct foot inspections and require their men to put on dry socks daily. Men should remove their boots and socks whenever possible (up to four hours daily), to let their feet dry out. After an operation all personnel will be examined by medical personnel. JULIAN J. EWELL Major General, USA CommandingDISTRIBUTION:AEXHIBIT 4-3MEMORANDUM ON PROPER FOOT CARE FOR SOLDIERS AT FORT GORDON, GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY HEADQUARTERS U.S. ARMY SIGNAL CENTER AND FORT GORDON FORT GORDON, GEORGIA 30805-5000AZTH-CG 20 November 1990MEMORANDUM FOR Commander, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine CommandATTN: ATCD-SE (COL Charles Ball), Fort Monroe, Virginia 23651-5000SUBJECT: Proper Foot Care for Soldiers at Fort Gordon1. Every summer an unnecessarily large number of soldiers at Fort Gordon require treatment in the Dermatology Clinic for severe eczema of the feet, usually with secondary infection which results from excessive heat and humidity. It is aggravated by the wearing of wool winter socks and combat boots during periods of high heat and humidity. Soldiers suffering from this problem lose many hours of training and are restricted from physical training until the skin of the feet can heal. After a severe episode of foot eczema, the skin is easily broken down for many weeks following recovery and relapses are common.2. Standard treatments for this condition include topical and internal medications. An integral part of treatment, however, is evaporation of perspiration through the wearing of adequately ventilated foot wear and cotton or cotton blend socks.3. Therefore, recommend that OD cotton socks be added as an additional issue item primarily to those soldiers participating in basic and advanced individual training in the summer months where excessive heat and humid climate exists. With the addition of cotton socks, daily rotation of boots and normal foot care during the summer months, many cases of foot eczema can be prevented and excessive lost training time and physical training restric- tions can be minimized.4. Point of contact at Fort Gordon is Ms. Ree Hill, Chief, Supply Brand, Installation Supply and Services Division, Directorate of Installation Support, AUTOVON 780-5186/4507. PETER A. KIND Major General, USA CommandingJAMES E. HASTINGSBrigadier General, MCDirector, Health Services 59
  • 6. Military DermatologyTABLE 4-1COMPARISON OF IMMERSION FOOT SYNDROMES Systemic Healing PathologicalSyndrome Site Symptoms Signs Involvement Time ChangesTrench foot Foot Prehyperemic: Prehyperemic: None Visible Prehyperemic: Early: pale, swollen, changes in thrombosis, numbness, vesiculobullous 4 wk–6 mo; edema, pain, paresthesia lesions, distal neurological vasoconstriction Late: anesthesia, cyanosis and structural Hyperemic: “walking on Hyperemic: changes in thrombosis, blocks of wood” increased edema, months (may capillary rupture, Hyperemic: warm, dry, be permanent) hemorrhage, tingling, erythematous, vasodilation, progressing to bounding pulses, edema, throbbing, burning vesicles, bullae, subepidermal pain, and ecchymosis vesiculation hyperesthesia; Posthyperemic: Posthyperemic: distal anesthesia Early: cool, moist, fibrin deposition may persist patchily or entirely in vessels and Posthyperemic: cyanotic, normal to muscles, edema of deep ache joint pain, decreased pulses nerve axons, prolonged Late: skin and variable lymphatic anesthetic changes muscular atrophy, damage osteoporosis, deformityImmersion Usually Same as trench foot Same as trench foot None Same as Same as trench foot foot foot, trench foot occasionally knee, thigh, or buttocksTropical Dorsum Early: Early: Fever 3–7 d Parakeratosis, immersion of foot, burning pain erythema, (38°C–39°C), acanthosis, foot ankles (aggravated by edema, macu- femoral lymphocytic pressure from lopapular rash, adenopathy perivascular footwear, walking, vesicles or bullae, infiltrate, edema, or both) and itching and tenderness, telangiectasia, delineatedby top extravasation of of boot erythrocytes Late: Recovery: paresthesia, decreased fever, hyperesthesia, adenopathy, anesthesia tenderness, and pain by 72 h; erythema and edema subside in 5–7 d followed by fine branny desquamation of all affected areasWarm water Plantar Pain on weight- Early: None 1–3 d Thickening of immersion surfaces bearing, tingling, swelling, wrinkling, (symptoms); stratum foot of feet “walking on rope” and pallor of plantar 7–14 d corneum sensation surfaces (fully Recovery: functional) resolution of changes in 24 h; shedding of stratum corneum starts in 4–6 d, lasts 7–14 d; feet remain tender until new callus develops60
  • 7. Immersion Foot Syndromes Water Water Relation to SusceptibilityPathogenesis Exposure Temp. Water Temp. Treatment Prophylaxis FactorsDirect 2–14 d 15°C Lower temp- Removal from wet Individual education Dependency, vascular continuously erature environment, avoid- in first aid and immobility, injury by wet (but not hastens ance of weight- recognition; trauma, anoxia, cold necessarily injury bearing, rewarming frequent rotation poor nutrition, immersed) of body, elevation out of wet, cold areas; improper and cooling of feet, maintenance of warming nutritious diet, asepsis, nutritional status; tetanus prophylaxis, informed command prophylactic antibiotics, elements conservative surgical approach, avoidance of smokingSame as trench 1 d or more of 15°C Same as trench Same as trench foot Enclosed survival Same as trench foot foot continuous foot craft, individual immersion protective suitsPassage of water 3–10 d of 22°C–32°C None Allowing feet to dry 24 h of drying for Previous episodes through continuous until asymptomatic each 48 h of may increase epidermis, immersion exposure susceptibility with secondary to repeated subacute episodes dermatitisHyperhydration 1–5 d of 22°C–32°C Increased Allowing feet to dry Daily drying Thicker stratum of stratum intermittent temperature until asymptomatic (overnight), corneum corneum immersion hastens silicone barrier predisposes to injury greases injury 61
  • 8. Military DermatologyWars. 7,8 Yet these lessons seem to have been lost onmodern armies. In Europe during World War II,American forces sustained 11,000 cases of trenchfoot in November 1944 with more than 6,000 in theThird U.S. Army alone. 9 Trench foot is nearly identical to gradual-onsetfrostbite, but the maximum temperature at whichtrench foot can occur has not been established. Icecrystals will not form in tissue above 0°C, but from0°C to 10°C to 15°C clinical trench foot will developif exposure lasts 48 hours or longer.8 Other contrib-uting factors include nutritional deficiency; trauma OK to put on the Web(rubbing or walking on affected feet); wind; im-proper clothing type and integrity; circulatory stag-nation and tissue anoxia from dependency, inactiv-ity, hemorrhage, or shock; and improper techniqueused to rewarm an injured limb.7 Clinically, trench foot is insidious in onset, thesoldier first noting a cold sensation giving way tonumbness. Paresthesia and pain may be noted withweight bearing.8,10 With continued exposure, completeanesthesia to touch, pain, and temperature occurs: afeeling described as “walking on blocks of wood.”9 The feet appear pale and swollen and may ex-hibit vesiculobullous lesions.6–8 The degree of edemaduring this ischemic or prehyperemic stage de-pends on whether the feet are intermittently re- Fig. 4-1. Mild edema and a mottled appearance of thewarmed during the course of exposure (which re- plantar aspect of the feet are characteristic of the earlysults in less edema).9 The feet may appear mottled hyperemic stage of trench foot. Prolonged exposure toor purple, suggesting impending gangrene, yet such cold, damp conditions leads to prolonged incapacity.permanent damage is usually minimal with proper Photograph: Courtesy of David Corbett, CDR, Dermatol- ogy Branch, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Md.care (Figure 4-1).9–10 The hyperemic 6 or inflammatory9 stage occursseveral hours after removal of footgear and re- to sepsis, the uncomplicated course of this injurywarming of the extremity. Sensation returns proxi- has no systemic manifestations.mally to distally, first as a tingling sensation that The posthyperemic or postinflammatory stage israpidly progresses to an extreme burning, throb- prolonged. The previously hot, dry foot becomesbing pain.8–10 Warmth cannot be tolerated and sol- cool, moist, mottled or entirely cyanotic, with pulsesdiers become more comfortable with cooling of the difficult to find. The extreme pain of the hyperemicextremity.9 Hypesthesia replaces anesthesia except stage subsides to a deep ache, noted especiallyfor the most distal areas, which may remain anes- distally and often associated with the smallerthetic for weeks or months. The feet rapidly swell joints.8,9 Hyperesthesia and paresthesia disappearand become warm, dry, and erythematous, with rapidly, whereas anesthesia tends to remain forbounding pulses.9,10 months or years.6,9 Late changes in more severely In milder cases, this stage peaks at 24 hours. Severe affected soldiers may include atrophy of the skin,6cases, however, may progress for 48 to 96 hours and osteoporosis,9 and muscular atrophy and deformityproduce areas of blistering and circulatory compromise (especially of the clawfoot type).9,11that are more likely to become gangrenous. Hemor- Histologically, trench foot is a manifestation ofrhage and ecchymosis may be present.8,11 injury to the microvasculature.8,10 Peterson and Milder cases of trench foot subside slowly over 1 Hugar12 state that prolonged exposure to cold causesto 4 weeks and are frequently accompanied by a increased blood viscosity and sludging of red cellsvariably scarring exfoliation 6,9 of the affected areas. within the vessels. Combined with sympatheticMore severe cases progress to the posthyperemic vasoconstriction and loss of serum proteins throughstage. Although trench foot patients are susceptible damaged endothelium, the result is thrombosis,62
  • 9. Immersion Foot Syndromesischemia, and cell injury. remove products of necrosis. As this reflex vasodi- Thrombosed vessels of the dermis and subcuta- lation occurs, previous thrombosis and direct in-neous tissue, reflex vascular dilation, capillary rup- jury to endothelial cells by cold and anoxia cause ature, and increased vascular permeability all con- massive transudation of plasma and red blood cells,tribute to the edema, vesiculation, and ecchymoses which leads to variable degrees of edema, vesicula-of the hyperemic stage.8–10 The work of Smith et al,8 tion, and hemorrhage.6in which trench foot was duplicated in rabbits, also To reduce metabolic demand and reflex vasodi-showed fibrin deposition in vascular walls and lation, the healthcare provider must raise the coremuscle bundles, edema and neutrophilic infiltra- temperature of the body while keeping the affectedtion of dermal collagen and muscles, edema of nerve extremities cool. 6,9,10 Elevating the patient’s uncov-axons, and vacuolization of muscular fibers of vas- ered feet in a stream of cool air from a fan whilecular endothelium. Smith and coworkers observed keeping the remainder of the body warm and wellvariable damage to lymphatic tissue. nourished usually achieves this goal. Patients no- Biopsies of tissue in the posthyperemic stage tice a decrease in pain, and edema, hyperemia, andhave demonstrated atrophy and thinning of the vesiculation subside.6 Cooling of the extremitiesdermis, fibrosis and collagen deposition around continues until the hyperemic stage has subsidednerve endings and blood vessels, and replacement and circulation is reestablished. The practice ofof muscle bundles and fibrils by scar tissue.6 rubbing the affected extremity with snow or ice further injures already compromised tissue and hasImmersion Foot no place in modern therapy.6,8–10 Other general measures include avoidance of Immersion foot can be considered the sailor’s weight bearing and direct trauma, aseptic precau-counterpart of the soldier’s trench foot. The term tions, prophylactic antibiotics, avoidance of smok-“immersion foot” was first used during World War ing, tetanus prophylaxis, analgesics, a nutritiousII to describe a syndrome of clinical conditions high-protein diet, and possible plasma transfusionoccurring in extremities exposed to prolonged, con- as indicated. Surgical treatment should be delayedtinued immersion in water of temperature ranging as long as possible to allow natural demarcation offrom above freezing to 15°C. Seen most dramati- tissue loss, and amputation should be correspond-cally during World War II, immersion foot typically ingly conservative.6,9,10develops in shipwrecked persons who are adrift Other forms of therapy suggested for frostbiteeither in water or in lifeboats partially filled with have not been specifically investigated forwater. 6,7,9,10 It also was reported in Vietnam, the nonfreezing injuries and are not recommended.result of prolonged immersion in rice paddies.11 These treatments include rapid rewarming, low Clinically, soldiers with immersion foot show molecular weight dextran, sympathetic blockade,the same prehyperemic, hyperemic, and post- ultrasound, continuous epidural anesthesia,hyperemic stages as do those affected with classic anticoagulation, and regional sympathectomy.12–15trench foot.6,9–11 In immersion foot, however, the Treatment of the posthyperemic stage is mostlyinjury may extend more proximally to include the symptomatic, utilizing physiotherapy, exercise, andknees, thighs, and buttocks, depending on the depth surgical correction of deformity. 9 Early sym-of immersion.6 Also, because of the continuous pathectomy in more severe cases may prevent lateexposure, immersion foot may begin the first day, sequelae such as fibrosis, contractures, and scar-whereas trench foot usually begins after several ring,6 but such intervention awaits further study.days of lesser and, perhaps, intermittent exposure. Prevention of trench foot and immersion injuryThe histopathological findings seen in immersion is difficult, especially in wartime circumstances. Offoot are similar to those of trench foot. primary importance is the proper choice, use, and care of protective footgear. Individual education inManagement first aid and recognition of impending injury, atten- tion to personal hygiene, frequent rotation out of Treatment of nonfreezing injuries such as trench wet and cold areas, maintenance of nutritional sta-foot and immersion foot is based on reversing the tus and morale, and informed command personnelischemia while not aggravating the edema, red cell are all necessary to prevent trench foot. Immersionextravasation, or inflammation of the hyperemic foot may be prevented by the use of enclosed sur-stage. With rewarming, damaged tissue cells have vival craft and by the availability of cold watera greatly increased need for effective blood flow to protective suits for individuals on ships at sea. 63
  • 10. Military Dermatology INJURIES IN WARMER CLIMATES As with trench foot and immersion foot, pain and considerably warmer environment in troops fight-disability characterize the following two prevent- ing in the Philippines during World War II.9 Aable warm water syndromes. While the healing similar hot, wet environment experienced by groundtime is shorter for the warm water syndromes— forces in Vietnam was recognized as the cause ofseveral days to 2 weeks as compared with several many foot casualties. Such casualties frequentlyweeks to months in cooler climates—the impact on resulted in greater loss of combat unit strength thanfighting strength is obviously dramatic. Prevention did all other medical causes combined and oftenby responsible policies and adherence to them by were instrumental in limiting the duration of fieldthe commander are of paramount importance to the operations.16accomplishment of the unit’s mission. Tropical immersion foot, commonly known as “paddy foot,” occurs after continuous or near-con-Tropical Immersion Foot tinuous immersion of the foot in water or mud of temperatures above 22°C for periods ranging from Investigators first referred to what they felt was 2 to 10 days.9,16–18 The first symptoms include burn-a variant of classic immersion foot occurring in a ing16 and itching18 sensations on the dorsum of the foot. With continued exposure, walking becomes progressively more difficult. 9,18 When footgear is removed, the foot is edematous (Figures 4-2 and 4-3). Usually, the shoes cannot be replaced.9,16 The feet may initially appear pale,9 but they rapidly become intensely erythematous in a distribution sharply demarcated at shoe- or boot- top level (Figures 4-4 and 4-5). This erythema affects the dorsum of the foot but not the plantar surfaces—an important differentiating point from warm water immersion foot.9,16–19 Papules, vesicles, or both may appear, sometimes with a hemorrhagic OK to put on the Web component. 18–20 OK to put on the Web Fig. 4-3. The erythema of tropical immersion foot (shownFig. 4-2. Physical examination of this soldier whose feet here in an early stage) affects the dorsal surface of thehad been continuously immersed in the warm water of a foot. Warm water immersion foot, which results fromrice paddy for several days reveals tropical immersion intermittent rather than continuous exposure to warm,foot with striking edema. Photograph: Courtesy of David wet conditions, affects only the soles. Photograph: Cour-Taplin, PhD, Dermatology Department, University of tesy of David Taplin, PhD, Dermatology Department,Miami School of Medicine, Miami, Fla. University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, Fla.64
  • 11. Immersion Foot Syndromes OK to put on the Web OK to put on the WebFig. 4-4. On close examination of a patient with early Fig. 4-5. In tropical immersion foot, the erythema extendstropical immersion foot, erythema, peeling, and fissures up the leg to a point of sharp demarcation at boot-topare present. Skin changes such as these are often accom- level. Photograph: Courtesy of David Taplin, PhD, Der-panied by adenopathy and fever. Photograph: Courtesy matology Department, University of Miami School ofof David Taplin, PhD, Dermatology Department, Uni- Medicine, Miami, Fla.versity of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, Fla. Although tenderness and pain (especially on of red blood cells. 16,18–20 Willis,21 in an experimentweight bearing) are often prominent in tropical exposing the backs and arms of volunteers to con-immersion foot, hyperesthesia, paresthesia, and trolled continuous water contact, achieved similaranesthesia are more common. Most notable are the histological changes. He postulated that suchsystemic reactions. Severely affected soldiers have changes are caused by loss of barrier function of thetender unilateral or bilateral femoral adenopathy swollen stratum corneum, with secondary irrita-and a fever of 38°C to 39°C.9,16–18 tion or damage to the underlying tissues. No definite predisposing factors are known, but Management of tropical immersion foot consistsphysicians and commanders estimate that severe of bed rest, elevating and drying the feet, analgesicstropical immersion foot develops within 4 days in if necessary, and antibiotics if indicated. Usually,3% to 5% of exposed individuals. These individuals fever and adenopathy resolve within 72 hours, andseem predisposed to repeat injury.16 In about 80% the erythema and edema subside in 5 to 7 days,of those exposed, some degree of the disorder de- followed by a fine branny desquamation resultingvelops after 10 to 12 days.18 in normal-appearing feet.16,18 Even the most severe Histologically, tropical immersion foot shows cases usually resolve within 2 weeks withoutepidermal parakeratosis and acanthosis,20 dermal sequelae such as gangrene, persistent sensoryedema and telangiectasia, and a lymphocytic changes, or orthopedic disability.perivascular infiltrate with associated extravasation Prevention is easily accomplished if a 24-hour 65
  • 12. Military Dermatologydrying-out period is alternated with each 48 hours thickened, severely wrinkled, and macerated (Fig-of water exposure.16,18 In a military setting, the ure 4-6).16,17,24,25 Although these changes may extendcommander’s attention to this matter is critical. Al- to the sides of the foot, they do not affect the dor-though rapid-drying boots and socks may delay the sum.onset of tropical immersion foot,16 silicone greases Warm water immersion foot appears to developused as a barrier ointment have not proved effective.20 faster at higher water temperatures.13 Persons withSince persons affected with the disorder seem pre- thicker, callused soles tend to experience more se-disposed to reinjury,16,19 special attention to preven- vere (although not earlier) symptoms.16,17,24,26 Mi-tive measures is indicated for these individuals. croscopically, hyperhydration of the stratum corneum is the only finding.27Warm Water Immersion Foot Treatment consists of bed rest and drying the feet.16–18 The wrinkles and maceration resolve within Although warm water immersion foot may seem 24 hours, but tenderness may last 2 to 3 days. Thethe most innocuous of the immersion foot syn- patient is asymptomatic by the third day. Shortlydromes, it can incapacitate an individual for 3 to 14 thereafter, however, thick portions of the sole begindays. This condition occurred in many service to fissure and peel, shedding completely within 1 tomembers in Vietnam when they were subjected to 2 weeks. During this peeling, the stratum corneumvariable periods of intermittent exposure to wet, may be more susceptible to infection via the fis-warm conditions. More recently, warm water im- sures,17 and patients experience tenderness on walk-mersion foot has been noted in persons wearing ing as new calluses develop.18insulated boots, without water exposure, presum- Prophylaxis consists of drying the feet for 6 to 8ably from the buildup of perspiration—the so-called hours (overnight) of every 24 hours.16,17,28 Silicone“moon-boot syndrome.”22,23 grease applied to the entire foot24,25,28 or to the soles After 1 to 3 days of exposure, affected individu- alone15 retards the development of warm waterals begin to note pain on weight bearing, tingling, immersion foot. Footgear with adequate drainageand a sensation described as “walking on rope.”16 and composed of rapidly drying materials may alsoWhen footwear is removed, the soles of the feet are slow the development of this condition.a b OK to put on the Web OK to put on the Web Fig. 4-6. (a) Warm water immersion foot is the mildest of the immersion foot syndromes; however, it can incapacitate soldiers for 3 to 14 days. The clinical appearance results from hyperhydration of the stratum corneum. (b) Closer view of characteristic thickened, wrinkled skin. Photo- graphs: Courtesy of David Taplin, PhD, Dermatology De- partment, University of Miami School of Medicine, Miami, Fla.66
  • 13. Immersion Foot Syndromes SUMMARY As is the case for most cutaneous diseases seen in incorporate these medical matters and ensure logis-soldiers, the counterpart of immersion foot exists in tical support for the successful outcome of militarythe civilian community. Immersion foot problems operations.in homeless individuals have recently been reported In wartime, a soldier who becomes a “foot casu-following continuous exposure to a damp environ- alty” is as useless to his commander as one whoment over a period of days to weeks.29 Ski instruc- sustains a bullet wound. It is up to the soldier-tors have also been reported to develop this syn- physician to advise commanders appropriately ondrome.11 the prevention of these environmental injuries. A Military medical history continues to teach re- familiarity with the clinical and pathophysiologicalcurring critical lessons; the kinds and amounts of aspects of immersion foot syndromes also enables theskin disease occurring in soldiers can be predicted physician to render appropriate care, which in turnon the basis of knowledge of such factors as climate, may prevent or ameliorate long-term disability.terrain, and environmental conditions. In order tosignificantly decrease the impact of skin disease on (The sections “Injuries in Cool or Cold Climates” and “Inju-combat effectiveness, military dermatologists ries in Warmer Climates” and Table 4-1 are reprinted from:should be integrated at the division level, so that Adnot J, Lewis CW. Immersion Foot Syndromes. J Assoc Milcommand policies and tactical considerations can Derm. 1985;11(1):87–92.) REFERENCES 1. Gillett MC. The Army Medical Department, 1775–1818. Washington, DC: Medical Department, US Army, Office of The Surgeon General, and Center of Military History; 1981: 192. 2. Brown HE. The Department of the United States Army from 1775 to 1873. Washington, DC: The Surgeon General’s Office. 1873: 104. 3. Risch E. The Quartermaster Corps: Organization, Supply, and Services. Vol 1. Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army; 1953: 102–103, 108, 110. 4. Allen AM. Skin Diseases in Vietnam, 1965–72. In: Ognibene AJ, ed. Internal Medicine in Vietnam. Vol 1. Washing- ton, DC: Medical Department, US Army, Office of The Surgeon General, and Center of Military History; 1977: 7, 81. 5. Pillsbury DM, Livingood CS. Dermatology. In: Infectious Diseases and General Medicine. Vol 3. In: Havens WP, Anderson RS, eds. Internal Medicine in World War II. Washington, DC: Medical Department, US Army, Office of The Surgeon General; 1968. 6. White JC, Scoville WB. Trench foot and immersion foot. N Engl J Med. 1945;232:415–422. 7. Green, R. Frostbite and kindred ills. Lancet. 1941;2:689–693. 8. Smith JL, Ritchie J, Dawson J. On the pathology of trench frostbite. Lancet. 1915;2:595–598. 9. Whayne TF, DeBakey ME. Cold Injury, Ground Type, in World War II. Washington, DC: Office of The Surgeon General, Department of the Army, 1958.10. Webster DR, Woolhouse FM, Johnston JL. Immersion foot. J Bone Joint Surg Br. 1943;24:785–794.11. Gold RH. A review of immersion foot. J Am Podiatry Assoc. 1966;56:414–415.12. Peterson G, Hugar DW. Frostbite: Its diagnosis and treatment. J Foot Surg. 1979;18:32–35. 67
  • 14. Military Dermatology13. Bouwman DL, Morrison S, Lucas CE, et al. Early sympathetic blockade for frostbite—Is it of value? J Trauma. 1980;20:744–749.14. Weatherly-White RCA, Sjostrom B, Paton BC. Experimental studies in cold injury. Part 2: The pathogenesis of frostbite. J Surg Res. 1964;4:17–22.15. Weatherly-White RCA, Paton BC, Sjostrom B. Experimental studies in cold injury. Part 3: Observation on the treatment of frostbite. Plast Reconstr Surg. 1965;36:10–18.16. Allen AM, Taplin D. Tropical immersion foot. Lancet. 1973;2:1185–1189.17. Samitz, M.H. Immersion injuries. In: Cutaneous Disorders of the Lower Extremities. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: JB Lippincott; 1981: 179–183.18. Akers WA. Paddy foot: A warm water immersion foot syndrome variant. Milit Med. 1974;139:605–618.19. Allen AM. Taplin D, Lowy JA, et al. Skin infections in Vietnam. Milit Med. 1972;137:295–301.20. Douglas JS, Eby CS. Silicone for immersion foot prophylaxis: Where and how much to use. Milit Med. 1973;137:386– 387.21. Willis I. The effects of prolonged water exposure on human skin. J Invest Dermatol. 1973;60:166–171.22. Blogg H. Moon-boot foot syndrome. Br Med J. 1982;285:1774–1775.23. Philipp R. Moon-boot foot syndrome. Br Med J. 1983;286:562.24. Taplin D, Zaias N. Tropical immersion foot syndrome. Milit Med. 1966;131:814–818.25. Rietschel RL, Allen AM. Immersion foot: A method for studying the effects of protracted water exposure on human skin. Milit Med. 1976;141:778–780.26. Taplin D, Zaias N, Blank H. The role of temperature in tropical immersion foot syndrome. JAMA. 1967;202:546– 549.27. Gill KA. Naval Medical Field Research Laboratory Report: Field study on silicone ointments MDX-4-4056 and MDX-4- 4078. Camp Lejeune, NC: Department of the Navy; 1967: 1–7.28. Buckles LJ, Gill KA, Gustave TA. Prophylaxis of warm-water immersion foot. JAMA. 1967;200:681–683.29. Wrenn K. Immersion foot: A problem of the homeless in the 1990s. Arch Intern Med. 1991;151:785–788.68

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